In our last post, we talked about how God has been stripping away our own prideful and selfish desires and has been replacing them with the desire to follow Him, completely. This is a process that will continue until we die, but it is a process that we have begun to openly embrace. Where before, we were resistant to conviction and change, now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are open to His conviction and direction. This time around, we are going to look at a specific area in our lives where God has blown up our desires and replaced them with the sole desire to follow Him and worship Him as He has called us to. Again, this is not out of a desire to bash you over the head in judgment, but rather to lovingly share what God has been teaching us. This is one example of how God has changed us, but there are many more areas of our lives that have changed and continue to change thanks to the conviction from God’s Word and leading from the Holy Spirit.
It is (we think) fairly common knowledge that we don't practice holiday celebrations as a family, particularly Christmas and Easter. If you didn't know that, now you do! It has been a progression for us and definitely not one that we have taken lightly! I can't even tell you how many conversations we have had on this topic over the last 3-4 years. This is our story of discovery, conviction, and change, specifically dealing with Christmas.
Both of us celebrated Christmas growing up, and did so into adulthood. Both of us enjoyed the traditions and sentimentalism of the season, more so Melyssa than Derrick. However, neither of us really had any real understanding where those traditions stemmed from. We were simply always told that Christmas was about celebrating Christ’s incarnation here on earth.
Now, I (Melyssa) really cannot remember what prompted me to do this, but I decided that I was curious about the origins of Christmas and wanted to learn about it. And of course, you can find the answer to just about every single question in the world by Googling it! What I found was shocking to me. I sat there, in my living room, looking at my pretty tree and decorations, and discovered one by one, that all of the things I thought were innocent and lovely were all rooted in the pagan worship practices centered around the winter solstice. Seriously...mind blown. I guess it is pretty common knowledge for most people, so call me ignorant... but I had no idea! I kid you not, my very first thought after reading that was...then why in the world would Christians celebrate it? I was jaded. I did not enjoy much about the holidays after learning this. It was just not the same for me anymore...little did I know that it would change even more as the years went on! But that year, I just went through the motions. I even asked Christians about it and they were like, "Yeah, I knew that, so what?" Once again, mind blown. I was surprised and taken aback by how casually this was viewed by believers.
When the next year rolled around, I decided that if almost every Christian in the world thinks Christmas is good, and holy, and beautiful, then I might as well join them! I explained away all my convictions by telling myself, "It's been 'redeemed' for Christ!", "We can just make it all about Jesus and God will still get the glory." and "No one really thinks they are practicing pagan worship when they put up a Christmas tree, so does it really matter?" I started listening to Christmas music in October that year (I was pregnant and SO caught up in the emotion of it all!) and went all out with decorating, festivity, you name it. We had a gorgeous tree...I remember it well because it was our last.
After that year was over, we both knew that we needed to stop celebrating Christmas. The more we searched God’s Word, the heavier the conviction was on our lives. We needed to let God’s Word, not our emotions shape our actions. Since then we have strived to be faithful to God’s Word and be loving to others. Our desire now is humility, humility before God, and before others. We do not always say things the right way, we do not always know where lines should be drawn and when they should not… we are still works in progress, as we all are. However, our foremost longing is to see God glorified in our lives, and I know that the more we strive after Him alone; He will help us to work through those details.
We want to share some of the top reasons why we have made the decision not to celebrate Christmas. This list combines things that both of us find important. It also shows things that we have been wrestling with over the last 4 years. Here is our compiled, but not comprehensive, list of reasons why we do not celebrate Christmas.
1. It is not celebrated in the Bible, nor commanded to be celebrated in the Bible. The apostles never celebrated, nor did the early church fathers.
2. The origins and most common traditions of Christmas are definitively pagan, there really is no way to get around that. The tree, gift-giving, yule log, mistletoe, garland, caroling, Santa (nope, sorry, not a saint), elves, you name it. As I mentioned, most think they know this, but most do not know to what extent these traditions are indeed pagan, and most do not know exactly what they were meant to signify. Please, if you are open to this, do some good research on the subject. It may take some time but it will open your eyes to what it is we are using to celebrate Jesus Christ. We must be careful not to allow the traditions of men to get in the way of what God wants. (Mark 7:8, Colossians 2:8)
3. The pagan celebration was adopted by the church under the rule of Constantine, who “Christianized” the pagan celebrations in an attempt to allow people to become Christians and keep many of the same traditions. It morphed into a Catholic holy day where they attempted to infuse new meaning into the pagan traditions, most of which were retained in the celebration. The Bible speaks pretty clearly on not using pagan practices to worship the true God. (Deuteronomy 12:30-31) For instance, most in the church today would be very oppositional to the incorporation of Buddhist meditation practices into their worship services, even if they gave them new meaning. Yet, this is what we do when we use Christmas and Easter as celebrations of Jesus.
4. Materialism. This one will probably be one that is a little easier to agree with for some of you. It doesn't take long to look around this time of year and see example after example of greed, materialism, selfishness, all in the name of Christmas. Think about how focused people are on what they are going to buy. How worried and obsessed people get about shopping and getting gifts for their loved ones and friends. How much money is unnecessarily spent on people who already have way more than they could ever need or want? Not everyone does this, and I am glad to see that there is a new trend of simplicity and "less is more". But, overall, this country goes absolutely nuts this time of year with spending. It's out of control. I think gift giving is sweet and thoughtful and something that we should all be in the practice of doing. But, the greatest gifts cannot be bought. The world tells us that they can, and we see ads everywhere we go telling us just what our loved ones "need" for Christmas. I'm telling you, there is only one thing we all need, and it's more Jesus and His Word.
5. Christmas is always a let-down. It cannot live up the hype. It is so fleeting and filled with unrealistic expectations. Depression is rampant during this time of the year, due to the death or absence of loved ones and friends, or stress from the busyness and chaos. Our children become so hyper focused on gifts that they can think of little else, and then are let down when those gifts do not bring fulfillment. We put so much stock in traditions, that when they let us down, we feel angry and stressed. True fulfillment is only found in God, not empty traditions. (Psalm 63:1-8)
6. The world celebrates Christmas, in fact the largest Christmas tree in 2010 was in the Muslim country of Abu Dhabi. The world listens to Christmas carols that contain lyrics about Jesus, but are lacking in the gospel. There is no sting of conviction from the true gospel found in Christmas. Most people love the idea of Jesus as a baby… He did not say anything controversial then. Let us be in the world, but not of the world. Let us present the offense of the gospel, the offense of the cross, not a watered down, muddled version of it. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25, Isaiah 8:14, Romans 9:32-33)
7. Our Worship of God should be enough. Many people feel they need these special days to “jumpstart” their faith, which it almost always does not. Our worship should be grounded in spirit and truth, and it should be daily and weekly. We do have a celebration given us, the Lord’s Supper. Let us allow that to be our reminder, pointing us back to God.
8. The final reason is one that has been impressed more and more on us as time has gone on. It has been even more convicting as we have been studying through the book of Leviticus. It is the holiness of God. God is holy and demands worship that is grounded in His word; worship that follows His commands. There will be one more post under this conviction heading, and we will focus on these questions: What is God’s holiness and how should it change how we live our lives? This has been the most compelling reason that has driven the nail in the Christmas coffin for us. We will dig into that more in the next post.
I want to restate, this is simply one of many areas in the life of our family that has changed due to God’s conviction on our hearts. However, it is a very controversial and misunderstood conviction. We wanted to share why we do what we do, that this is not some flippant, trivial decision that we have made. It is made through much prayer, study in the fear of the Lord. We pray that we will be open to searching the Scriptures to discover God’s will on this issue. Do not search or trust your heart or emotions, but rather let your emotions be ruled by His Word.